more . . .

All Reviews

next »

 
the_author() rating onrating onrating onrating onrating half

IN THE SHADOW OF HEAVEN

No title

By AVR, member

Jan 13, 2019: First up, unlike most on Royal Road, this serial is well written in the sense that the dialogue isn’t stilted, the characterisation’s good and you can tell some of the characters apart by their speech patterns without it being intrusive. The pacing varies a fair bit, it’s not perfect but it’s got the basic bones to be a good serial.

The characters with their flaws and strengths are interesting. It seems odd initially that the empire’s apparent ruler would pick three like these as his apprentices until you realise how small the ruling class is – about 0.000 07% of the population, many of whom will be the wrong age, have other allegiances etc. The strength of the serial is in its characters and their interactions more than the adventure parts.

The plot moves slowly, but it picks up speed in the chapters numbered in the 40s. As of writing it’s up to the 50s and publishing 3 times a week. The view from the top of an Evil Empire is worth the read IMO.

1 of 1 members found this review helpful.
Help us improve!  Request an invite or log in to rate this review.

next »

the_author() rating onrating onrating onrating onrating half

THE SOLSTICE WAR

A Very Smart Narrative

By E_Foster, author of Cages

May 9, 2015: On its most basic level, Solstice War is exactly what it says on the tin. It is a story about two warring factions, the socialist Dominances of Solstice and the capitalist Allied nations of Nocht, Lubon, and Hanwa. But while this undeniably is a big, ambitious narrative, focused on large abstract ideologies, it also has small, very human moments that keep the story grounded.

The overall structure of the narrative is very clever. The author drops us right into the action of the narrative in his prologue, then, once the story proper begins, he takes us back to the inception point of the war. While this non-linear structure will not be for everyone, I found it to be a smart use of non-chronological narrative time. Rather than immediately asking the reader to grapple with the complex rationale behind the offensive, the author allows the reader to become invested in the people fighting the war first which is a great way to get the reader hooked into the story.

While I am not entirely familiar with war stories, for me, the battle sequences were very well constructed as the action was easy to follow. In some chapters, maps were included to help the reader follow the maneuvers of the troops. This was a very useful addition since the descriptions of the battles often become very detailed, and it was helpful to know where the various armies were fighting. The author also alternates between the socialist and capitalist armies throughout the narrative, and although it is clear which side the author prefers, by providing both perspectives, he prevents the reader from dehumanizing either side and forces them to grapple with the true costs of this war.

The battle scenes are always narrated through the eyes of a soldier, and the author does a great job keeping the emotions of the characters true to life. None of these character is trying to be a hero; instead, each one is just reacting (sometimes well and sometimes not so well) to the insanity of war.

Two of the characters, for me, were particularly well-drawn. The first, Leander, is a transgender man. His development as a character is fascinating because the war becomes the medium through which he constructs his gender identity. As he fights, he is creating the type of man he wants to be. Leander’s story is very true to the experiences of those I’ve known personally who have transitioned. It was wonderful to see a transgender character written in an intelligent, sensitive, and realistic manner.

The second character, Madiha, is one of the leaders in the Solstice army. In fiction, women in leadership positions often lack any depth because their creators only see them one-dimensionally. Madiha, however, is a well-rounded, beautifully constructed character. She is clearly a capable leader, but the author also allows us to see her moments of weakness, failure, and fear. Unlike a lot of women in stories like this one, she feels like a real person.

While the story features a number of LGBTQ characters (Madhia is a lesbian), the author avoids making their gender identities or their sexual preferences their only defining characteristic. Who these characters love and how they identify themselves to the world is only a part of their story not the whole. The author allows these characters to be more than just their gender or sexuality.

Although the characters inner lives were skillfully written, unfortunately, the depictions of their interpersonal relationships were not as successful. The emotional connections between the characters typically seemed a little forced, and their interactions felt a little flat. In addition, occasionally, the dialogue was problematic. Sometimes it seemed a little stilted and fake, and sometimes there was a little bit too much exposition in the dialogue for my taste. However, I did only get through the first fifteen sections of the narrative, so these could be aspects that improve as the story goes on.

Overall, I would highly recommend this story to absolutely anyone because I’m a person who doesn’t read or even really like war stories, but I still liked this one. The writing style is quite beautiful, and the narrative is compelling and unique.

6 of 6 members found this review helpful.
Help us improve!  Request an invite or log in to rate this review.

next »

the_author() rating onrating onrating halfrating offrating off

TRYING TO THROW MY ARMS AROUND THE WORLD

Not a romance as you’d expect it: more like a relationship drama slice of life.

By Eren Reverie, author of Et Alia

Jan 22, 2015: This is not your typical romance. It is written as an autobiography or memoir, covers far more relationships than ‘the one that is destined to be successful’ that you find in traditional romances, and wasn’t actually as bad a read as my rating might suggest at first glance. There were a few issues though, and I’ll try to outline those.

First of all, the site layout could have been improved. There’s only one place on the site for navigating backward and forward, and since the ‘Start reading now . . . ‘ link doesn’t take you to the first post, it might take a moment to realize that on this particular site, the left link moves forward in the story and the right link moves back. I didn’t really mark anything down for this since the author also offers the first book’s worth of content as a free download – so I ended up reading it on my Kindle instead of online. If you only read online, though, keep the navigation oddity in mind.

The writing isn’t bad, but it isn’t spectacular either. There weren’t more typos than I’ve come to expect from a random piece of web fiction, and it was pretty darn entertaining at points.

The story starts out being told partially in the present day Hong Kong, and partially in flashbacks to old relationships back in England and France. That was kind of interesting, except that it led to a few dangling plot threads: we’re given some information about the end-state of side character’s relationships in the present day bits, but we never see how they get there in the flashbacks. Also, at about the half way point of the first book it stops being about the author’s search for love in Hong Kong, and becomes told entirely in recollection of the past: it turns into the story of how she came to be in Hong Kong, and the relationships that led her there.

There is a lot of relationship drama, self-sabotage, moral hypocrisy and revenge sex, but at least the protagonist acknowledges her hypocrisy in her own thoughts.

Unfortunately, that moral hypocrisy and self-sabotage still resulted in the protagonist being rather unlikable to me. Which is to say: it was really easy to feel sympathetic with her, until I started to get frustrated with her inability to make her own choices and stick with them. She responds to people and situations, is easily influenced by those around her – and although she recognizes these things about herself, and comes to recognize when she is being hypocritical or engaging in self-sabotage, she doesn’t do anything to mitigate them even when she sees them as problematic. There is more than one point where she clearly recognizes that something she is doing is something she will regret bitterly in the future – but she does it anyway because it’s fun in the present, and she doesn’t seem to actually be affected by foreknowledge of how she will feel about events. She acts only on what she is feeling in the moment.

It seemed to me that she was a lot more enamored with falling in love and experiencing that new relationship energy than she was interested in being loving in the long term, or experiencing the sort of love that a relationship evolves into once the initial rush has expired.

Character growth was very slow, and usually more a growth of self awareness than of actual change in the character, which I also found frustrating. About one third through the book (the first time I was about to put it down, actually) the main character finally started recognizing her bad behaviors (which is why I kept reading). By around the one half point, she was recognizing the sorts of situations that would trigger them, and sortof looking for help in regards to that.

Even in the end, though, I don’t think she was effectively doing anything to avoid situations where she wouldn’t be in control of her decisions or otherwise acting to moderate herself – which would have been fine, except that she clearly recognized the consequences of many of her actions as bad for her relationships, but did nothing about it.

Ultimately, I almost walked away from this story more than once, but it kept reeling me back in – toward the end, though, I’ll admit that was more because I wanted to finish the book before writing a review than because I was holding out any hope that the protagonist would change.

The end of the first book’s worth of content concludes with a mention that the next book follows the protagonist into Hong Kong. I don’t know if I’ll pick that up: I keep going back and forth on it. If I do, it’s more likely to be because of morbid curiosity as to whether or not the character backslides into one of her bad past relationships than it will be because I want to see if she finds love. Reading about the trail of destruction her relationships have wrought on her own and other’s emotions is kind of like watching a train wreck, that way: it’s almost too horrifying to look away; you have to know how bad it really is.

If you’re looking for a traditional story of two people falling in love, this is not going to be the story for you. On the other hand, if you like slice-of-life stories with lots of relationship drama, happy beginnings, bad endings, and flawed characters then this one is probably worth a look. Just be warned: if you do get sucked in, you’re probably going to have as much trouble walking away as the protagonist demonstrates in dropping her bad habits.

6 of 6 members found this review helpful.
Help us improve!  Request an invite or log in to rate this review.

next »